|TOMB OF DRACULA No. 9, June 1973|
If vampires actually existed and had nightmares then it would be easy to imagine that the Lord of the Damned’s precarious situation during the first few pages of Issue Nine of “Tomb of Dracula” would be at the top of their list. For this “midnight excursion” by Marv Wolfman places a semi-conscious recuperating supervillain in the enclosed back room of a church with little in the way of fixtures except a large “cursed crucifix!” Unsurprisingly Dracula is far from happy with this particular turn in his undead fortunes. However he is unable to exact any kind of lasting revenge upon the citizens of Littlepool for the entirety of the book due to the ill effects from having previously been struck by a poisoned dart.
Indeed The Lord of all the Undead has seldom been seen in such a poor weakened condition and the Brooklyn-born comic book writer takes full advantage of this unusual state of affairs in “Death From The Sea!” No longer able to simply fly to safety or rely upon his great inhuman strength and savagery, Dracula instead has to use his wits and cunning to buy himself sufficient time to identify a hapless victim and regain his potency. As a result the 1973 Shazam Award-winner places the blood-drinker in the amusingly absurd situation of first being offered a room for the night in a church and then in the uncomfortable position where he must calm the concerns of the local townsfolk by recounting to them the adventure which led him to their minster’s doorstep.
This three-page flashback sequence is very well written with the Lord of the Damned explaining away his ghoulish attacks upon innocent travellers by referring to them as operations and blood transfusions. To the people of Littlepool this clearly comes across as a reasonable tale of ill-luck by a stranger in poor health. But to the reader, who has seen the true tale of Dracula’s exploits via the illustrations of Gene Colan, it is clear that the Lord of Vampires is at his manipulative best.
Unfortunately the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Famer is not quite on top of his game throughout these twenty pages with the majority of his pencil work appearing workmanlike at best. There’s a definite lack of detail to many of the panels’ characters and a rather simplistic, almost rushed feel to the artwork. Certainly the illustrations lack the signature-style of fluid figure drawing and extensive use of shadows for which the Silver Age comic book artist is best known for.
However much of this criticism may actually be down to inker Vince Colletta, who despite being one of Jack “King” Kirby’s frequent collaborators during the Fifties and Sixties, does not seem to have had such a positive influence upon Colan’s work as the title’s regular contributor Tom Palmer did. Indeed the Italian inker was replaced by Jack Abel in the following issue after publisher Stan Lee felt he had taken unacceptable shortcuts on the inking. Later Colan himself would go on record as saying that Coletta "didn't take his time with my stuff."